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If There Is a God, Why Are There Atheists?

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
March 15, 2020 12:01 am

If There Is a God, Why Are There Atheists?

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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March 15, 2020 12:01 am

Some atheists say that Christians believe in God only because of some psychological need–in other words, because they want to believe in Him. Listen today as R.C. Sproul turns the tables on this argument and exposes atheists’ vested interest in rejecting God.

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Today on the Sunday edition of Renewing Your Mind. I'm willing to grant to you that I have a vested interest in believing in God. Are you willing to grant to me that there are also powerful psychological motives that many people have. To deny the existence of God.

So many people in the world don't believe in God can be puzzling.

Some may ask, why didn't God make himself more obvious would created the world.

As Christians we understand the folly of her? But today renewing my Dr. RC scroll explains that it really is a mystery. In fact, atheists have a reason for not believing Dr. scroll's message today is titled if there's a God, why are there atheists remember when I was a freshman in college that I heard one of the professors make this comment he said a man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with an argument, and I was impressed by that, although I really didn't think deeply about and I thought back on that statement many, many times thereafter and gradually came to the realization that the statement really isn't all that sound because even if we have an experience that is powerful and life transforming that experience is still open to interpretation and to evaluation and to analysis and it's possible for anyone of us to have a profound experience that we miss understand profoundly and of course the most significant experience that I ever had in my life was the personal experience of my conversion to Christianity my conversion to Christianity was one of those Damascus road affairs where it was sudden it was dramatic and in a sense catastrophic, not catastrophic in the negative sense but catastrophic in the sense that it created a massive upheaval in my life and I was so excited about my conversion to Christ that I went immediately and told every friend of mine.

In fact, every person I met if I was riding a bus. I would talk to the person sitting next to me because I couldn't imagine why anybody in the world wouldn't be thrilled to hear about this exciting thing that I had discovered in my life.

I really felt like a person who had discovered the pearl of great price and thought that everyone had an equal admiration for that sort of jewelry as I had recently are but I soon discovered that in fact that was not the case and people in many cases simply didn't believe what I was saying and others found it necessary to explain for me. My experience they would criticize it. They would analyze it, they would deny it, and the argument that I heard. I think more often than any argument was this, this and RC don't you see what is happened to you. What is happened to you is that you have come to religion because you needed some kind of crutch to assist you through life you need and what Karl Marx had called the opiate for the mass of some kind of bromide that would make the difficulties of your existence more bearable.

And so out of some deep rooted psychological need of one kind or another. You have entered into this religious experience and they said don't you realize that what you've done is that you've allowed fantasy to replace reality that you have experienced a common error of the creative imagination of human intelligence that the psychologist call wish projection because you want to believe in God because you want to believe that there's someone out there who will cleanse you of your sense of guilt that is tormented you who will deliver you from the fear of death who will promise you significance and meaning in your life and all of these things that you have projected that wish into a reality and have now therefore taken up the crutch of religion, I found that one of the most disturbing and troubling questions that I had to grapple with. As a young Christian because I knew that there was an element of truth contained to a point at least in the inquiry, I couldn't deny that I wanted my faith to be true, I couldn't deny that it would've been personally devastating for me to discover the next week or the next day that I had put my faith in Christ in vain. I could not deny that I wanted to be true. I certainly wanted to know that I was forgiven of my sins. I certainly wanted to know that there was a heaven. I certainly wanted to believe that there was a God who said that my life was meaningful and significant. And I couldn't deny those things, but there were plenty of friends of mine in the academic world, particularly who had no problem denying those things and I became a philosophy major and spent most of my time reading the writings of skeptics rather than of the lever and then later on when I was teaching at Temple University in Philadelphia at the Congo school of theology. One of the elective courses that I taught there was for upper level students for graduating seniors and I taught an elective in the philosophy of atheism. What I did in that course was I required that the students read the primary sources.

The primary documents of water usually considered to be the most formidable critics of historic theism and Christianity.

I made them read.

For example, the writings of David Hume of Ludwig Feuerbach of Karl Marx of Sigmund Freud of Walter Kyle Hofmann of Albert Camus of Jean-Paul Sartre of Bertrand Russell and so on, and it was a requirement of this course that we would read the arguments of the atheists and then try to grapple with their particular assertions.

Not one of the things came through very loudly and very clearly in that analysis, and that is that in virtually all of those philosophers whom I have mentioned at one point or another. They came to the conclusion that the reason why people believe in God is fundamentally driven by some psychological knee that is psychological need is the mother of all religion that is interested particularly in 19th century philosophical thought, the 18th century had witnessed what was called in Germany. The floor own the Enlightenment and one of the main precepts of the European Enlightenment was the principle espoused by the French encyclopedias who said that now with our advances in modern science, the God hypothesis is no longer a necessary hypothesis to explain the origin of the cosmos or the beginnings of human life. Now we can look to other natural causes to explain the universe without appealing to primitive forms of religion as a basis for reality. By the middle of the 19th century, the climate of philosophical skepticism was such that in the main philosophers were not debating the question does God exist. It was tacitly assumed by most of them as a foregone conclusion that God does not exist and so the question most of the able atheists of the 19th century were addressing was this question since there is no God. Why is it that man seems to be incurably Homo really DO sis everywhere we go. Whatever culture we examine, we find evidence and manifestation of some form of religious expression and religious belief that is deeply rooted in the culture and it's not something that is limited to or contained within the confines of primitive ignorant people we find people profoundly intelligent, who are as vehement in their affirmation of the existence of God as the atheists were in their denial and they said how can we account for the now let me just pause for second and see what was already appearing as the beginning of the philosophy of phenomenology, the question was not one of metaphysics.

Is there a God. We can't get up and climb up beyond the realm of physics and penetrate those questions.

What we need to know is in the arena, we can investigate this world.

Not only can we investigate the forces of physics in this world and of chemistry and biology.

We can also examine anthropology. We can examine people and one of the things we can do is that we can see the people here.

One of the phenomenon that we see is that they tend to be religious so we ask why we need to account for it. Just as a scientist in his laboratory has to give some kind of sufficient or inefficient causal explanation for the data that he examines so these historians of thought are trying to come up with a causal explanation for the advent of religion and legends on virtually every one of these people came up with some explanation rooted and grounded in psychology. Feuerbach you know he noticed for example that no matter what culture he examined the cultural expressions of their religion tended to depict gods that look like mirror images of the people themselves that if they went to an aborigine native and in Australia there deity look like an Australian aborigine road around in a canoe if they went to an outpost in Alaska. They would find that there deity was described look like an Eskimo and it seems that the people began to create God in their own image. Rather than understand themselves being created in God's image and so Feuerbach said all that God is in our concept is a projection of human characteristics elevated to the super or to the nth degree, sort of as a cosmic Superman. We understand power as a human trait. We just absolutize that and we say God is omnipotent, all-powerful, we understand that human beings are capable of knowledge they have science, we raise that to the nth degree and say God is a being who is on this the end, he has all knowledge, and so Karl Marx, as you well know, sought an economic explanation for the advent of religion. He said that the history of mankind is basically the history of the conflict of economic classes between economic groups and so on, and he says in any world in any society. Those who control the wealth will always be in a minority and the poor will always be in a majority and the problem that the wealthy have a simple, how are we going to control the masses. How are we can estop the masses from rising up in rebellion attacking us and taking the wealth and distributed equally among themselves. Mark says the way the twofold way that the wealthy control the masses. Are these the one hand, the wealthy control the legislation so that lady justice removes her blindfold. According to Marx and the law begins to reflect the vested interests of the ruling class. The law will discriminate against certain groups who were not in power. He said that will happen. He said that the most important tool that the owner has to control the slave that the rich have to control the poor is the tool of religion because what religion does is that it promises to the poor better life in heaven.

On the other side of the Jordan. If they be good slaves. Now and behave themselves on the plantation. Then Sunday by-and-by. You know swing sweet cherry. You know how that goes. And they're going to get carried away home the other side of Jordan and everything is good be great, but in the meantime, they have to be humble and they have to work and they have to mind their own business, that the behave themselves.

While the rich man enjoys all of the wealth here in the you put them to sleep with drugs of religion. That's the theory. Freud of course had more than one explanation, but his basic explanation was that man is afraid of nature because were vulnerable to nature.

We can be harmed or killed by the tornado by the fire by the flood by disease and you can't negotiate with these forces and so what we do is that we begin to personalize impersonal forces and begin to believe that there's a God that resides in the fire in a God that resides in the flood and we have a God for this in a God for that. And if we pray to those gods appease those God, give homage to those God maybe they will treat us kindly and removes the threat of nature from Megan.

I don't have time. In this brief. The canvas the basic feces here of these different philosophers, but the rudimentary principle is religion is the invention that comes out of some deep rooted psychological need only the labor that anymore. Do I we've all heard it to say this in response to somebody's accused of a crime in our criminal justice system. It is the task of the prosecution to prove the charges against the accused and part of the procedure and police work, and so on is to discover motive, means, and opportunity.

If a person can establish that they had no possible opportunity or no possible means to commit the crime is very difficult to prove the crime against them is but just because we prove that somebody has the motive the means and the opportunity to commit a crime does not mean that the person is guilty we may be able to show, for example, if one person is murdered, we may be able to find 50 different people that had a motive to kill that person had the opportunity to kill a person had the wherewithal to know what you need more than that to convict of the crime. I hope we understand now I have no quarrel with Freud or Marks or Feuerbach or Sartre or Kyle Hofmann or any of this in terms of their making it very clear that human beings indeed do have the capacity to invent religion.

I think we have to admit that freely we have brains we have the ability to project ideas. We have the ability to project wishes we have the ability to be engaged in fantasy.

We know that and I think that it's theoretically possible. If there is no God. I think it's possible that people could invent one.

We have the motive we have the means we have after I don't think we'd invent the God of Scripture.

I don't think would invent a God who is holy, I don't think would invent a God who demands perfect obedience to him with the threat of everlasting torment. If we fail at. But that's another story. But I'm saying I'm granting at the outset that we do have a psychological motive to invent God. But what I'm pleading for is to understand two things that just because man has the ability to invent God does not mean that that's how the idea of God came about. It's also more than possible that the reason why the world is incurably religious is because there is a God who has so clearly and manifestly demonstrated his existence to mankind that knowledge of him is virtually inescapable. That's another alternative explanation but more important to the point right now is that we have to say to our atheist friends hold the phone a minute.

I am willing to grant to you that I have a vested interest in believing in God.

Are you willing to grant to me that there are also powerful psychological motives that many people have. To deny the existence of God with the worst news that some people I know could ever discover is that there is a God who will hold them accountable for their lives because if there is a bias.

The bias can be in the other direction.

There's a strong reason why I wouldn't want God to exist mainly that if I have sinned, if God exists, then I understand that I am guilty before him and that I am going to be held ultimately accountable. So the bottom line is really debate the existence of God. I think would be wise to do it on grounds other than the psychological desirability or undesirability of him because of her talking about the way the God of Israel were talking about a God people and every driving passion can that's Dr. RC Sproul answering the question if there is a God, why are there atheists were grateful that you joined us for the sun. The addition of Renewing Your Mind. I believe web today's message is a prime example of why so many people appreciated Dr.'s role as a teacher and still do.

Over the years RC address many of the common issues that the Christians face since we've compiled 10 of the most popular messages in what we call the classic collection includes the message we just heard in others, like if God is good, why don't I suffer and the goal of Christian living will be happy to send you this 10 CD said when you contact us today with a donation of any about our web address is Renewing Your

If you're new to our program and appreciate the teaching that you heard today. Let me encourage you to tune into roughneck that's are our 24 hour Internet radio station.

We have gathered some of today's best teachers and preachers all emphasizing the historic Christian faith from a reformed perspective any time you listen you'll hear faithful, teaching, preaching, Christian music news updates and a variety of family-friendly programming. Listen for free anytime. When you go to roughneck.FM or when you download the free ref net app to your phone next week will continue the classic collection with Dr. schools message. If God is good.

Why do I suffer. Hope to see you right back here next Sunday for Renewing Your Mind

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